The government has recently published its economic growth white paper – ‘Local growth : realising every place’s potential’
The paper outlines a new approach to local growth, shifting power away from central government to local communities, citizens and independent providers.
A key part of the white paper is the establishment of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – locally-owned partnerships between local authorities and businesses.
The white paper highlights the role Local Enterprise Partnerships will play in determining local priorities and undertaking activities to drive economic growth and the creation of local jobs.
Central Bedfordshire is part of the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, which alongside 23 other local area partnerships was given the green light to progress as part of the white paper.
Working in partnership…
The South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership brings together businesses, universities and colleges, community groups, social enterprises and local government in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Luton, Milton Keynes, Cherwell, Aylesbury and Dacorum.
It covers a population of over 1.8 million people and 75,000 businesses, which together account for 3.7% of the English economy.
The South East Midlands LEP’s emerging objectives are:
- high levels of economic success;
- diverse industry base including distinctive specialist niches;
- high levels of knowledge intensity with local industries built on research and knowledge transfer supported by universities;
- strong communications infrastructure and first class local and national transport links, including those by air, rail and road; and
- an attractive sustainable place for investors and individuals alike
Key factors in the Government’s decision to approve the South East Midlands LEP included the partnership’s strong case built on a real economic area, and the high level of business engagement in developing the proposal.
Regional Growth Fund
Central Bedfordshire Council is working with partners to develop the Local Enterprise Partnership.
This includes developing a new private sector-led board, building on existing local needs and opportunities to develop priorities for the area, and considering funding opportunities as part of the £1.4 billion Regional Growth Fund also announced as part of the white paper.
Read the South East Midlands LEP ‘Innovation for Future Prosperity’ here.
On 20 October 2010 after months of speculation, the Chancellor finally announced the outcome of the government’s review into public expenditure.
Whilst it will be several weeks before we have the full detail of individual council’s budgets, we do know that councils face an average loss of grant of 28% over the next 4 years, this is significantly front loaded with a average of 10.7% reduction in the first year.
Capital funding is being cut by 45%.To support councils to deal with these significant reductions there will be a dramatic reduction in the number of ring-fenced grants to councils, which is intended to give councils much greater freedom to spend funding where it is most needed.
In a letter to councils, the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has confirmed ‘If councils choose to freeze council tax in 2011-12, the government will fund the equivalent of a 2.5% increase in council tax that year for the spending review period.’
There will be a radical reform of the housing finance system in order to give councils greater freedom to reinvest to meet local housing needs. Changes to the planning system and the introduction of a new Home Bonus Scheme should give local communities more say over housing, whilst at the same time rewarding those areas that wish to grow.
There will be a real terms increase in the school budget for children and young people aged 5-16 of 0.1% over the next 4 years, which includes a £2.5bn pupil premium for disadvantaged children. There will also be support to further increase learning participation for ages 16-19.
Health and wellbeing
There will be a real terms increase in the health budget, and nationally £1bn of additional funding will be provided to the NHS to work closer with councils.
Personal budgets are expanded to include children with special educational needs and adults with long term care needs.
Whilst this additional funding is welcome news, this new funding comes with an expectation that by 2014 national efficiency savings of over £20bn will be found.
Economic development – growth
The new government is keen to support economic growth and so will be introducing a new Tax Increment Finance Power. This will allow councils to fund key capital projects by borrowing against anticipated future increases in locally collected business rates. More details of which will follow over the coming months.
Economic development – transport
There will be a £30bn investment in transport projects to help support the economic recovery. However, the Minister for Transport has also announced that work on the construction of the A5/M1 link road will now not start until after 2015, and that this vital transport link is subject to further public consultation.
Economic development – skills
The government is keen to encourage a greater take up of apprenticeships and intends to support an additional 75,000 new adult apprenticeships by 2015. Lower priority programmes like Train to Gain will be abolished.
Crime and Safety
The police will see their budgets reduced by 4% each year, however there is an expectation that he focus will be on reducing bureaucracy rather than cutting front line posts.
Similarly the fire service will see a 25% cut in their grant.
This reduction will be back-loaded to the final two years of the government’s 4 year spending review period. This will give fire authorities time to make the necessary changes to their working practices, and ensure a minimal impact on the services they provide to communities.
Voluntary and community sector
In recognition of the challenges faced by the voluntary and community sector and in expectation of an increasing role for this sector in supporting the Big Society, a £100 million transition fund is being established to help those groups facing real hardship.
These are just a few of the headline announcements from the Comprehensive Spending Review.
For more information go to HM Treasury – Spending Review website.